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Making Your Marriage a Fortress with Gary Thomas

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

Mandy: Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris Grace: Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We're so excited, Alisa, to not only here have us together in the studio, but to have with us online. Or on, I guess by voice Gary Thomas. And so Alisa, maybe talk about Gary Thomas and tell the readers or the listeners of all of his books now and then our listeners to our podcast what we're going to do.

Alisa Grace: Oh, gosh. A guest that needs no introduction, I don't think. Of course, Gary is the author of 20 books that have, altogether, they've sold over 2 million copies, over 2 million copies in over a dozen languages. And the books include Sacred Marriage, Cherish Married Sex, and the Gold Medallion Award Winner, Authentic Faith. Today, Gary is joining us because he has a brand-new book that came out at the beginning of October and it's called Making Your Marriage a Fortress, Strengthening Your Marriage to Withstand Life's Storms. Gary, thank you for joining us.

Gary Thomas: Thank you for having me.

Chris Grace: It's good to have you. I know you're out in Colorado right now. Gary, that's a new part of your life. You've lived in a lot of different places, but now you're in a church in Colorado. How's that been?

Gary Thomas: We are loving it. It's so beautiful here. And we've had a fall, which has been nice. We've even actually had snow. I was laughing one day because it was only 41 degrees here, so I just had to check Houston. And Houston was 82. So exactly twice what it was. But no, it's been so beautiful. We've gone up to the mountains, been to Vail twice, you see the snow in the mountains in the background and just in love with the church here. It's a whole different thing. I was telling you beforehand, since we started out our first house we purchased in Virginia, but we're from the Pacific Northwest and spent 12 years in Houston. So we've now lived in all four time zones.

Alisa Grace: Oh wow. All four climate zones, huh?

Gary Thomas: Yeah, that's true. Rain in the Pacific Northwest. Hot and very hot in Texas. Virginia was a little closer to Colorado, didn't have, I don't think the cold that we'll have here, but it had four seasons and was beautiful.

Alisa Grace: Beautiful. Oh, I bet it's gorgeous right now.

Chris Grace: Well, if he calls you to Italy or a place like that, we're going with you because that's our goal. 

Alisa Grace: Scoot over.

Gary Thomas: Actually, I'm going to Italy next year.

Chris Grace: Oh, good.

Gary Thomas: I have an Italian publisher that had me out several years ago when they brought out a couple books and they're bringing out a couple more, and so they're bringing us back out. So my wife is really excited.

Alisa Grace: I bet she is.

Chris Grace: Oh man. No kidding. That's awesome, Gary. Well, Gary, one of the things that I did, just real quickly, we have an Art of Relationships podcast that you're on right now, and I went in and I did a quick search on the podcast to see how many times your name came up. And I think, Gary, probably of counting everything starting in 2016, there must be at least three a year where your name comes up and mostly it's good, Gary. I think there are a few times where sometimes we can just get the better ... No, not really. All of them are very good. 

So for any listeners out there right now, if you want to know more about Gary Thomas, especially different books, his early ones, Sacred Marriage, whatever that might be, just man, go to his website, he's got one. And then of course go to this website and you can check out and all the different things we say about some of the amazing things he's been studying and doing.

Alisa Grace: That's right. Our website is, and CMR is for the Center for Marriage and Relationships.

Chris Grace: Gary, first of all, just as I'm reading through Making Your Marriage a Fortress, it's your newest book out and the subtitle is Strengthening Your Marriage to Withstand Life's Storms. And we just were right away drawn to it for a number of reasons, but mostly because you wrote it and we've loved your work. And it was funny, just as an aside, I turned to, I think one of the chapters after ... well actually I was reading straight through from the beginning and then I found one chapter with Deborah and John and I immediately knew who it was, good friends of ours. I know you say her name in the book, but I was so pleased to see you interact and have friendship with Deborah Falletta and John Falletta who make a chapter in your book. They've been on our podcast. We're good friends with them.

Alisa Grace: Yeah. Oh yeah. Fabulous. Fabulous. They're great.

Gary Thomas: Well, I was on a vigorous search for this book to find very wise couples who've gone through certain life challenges. I didn't want it to be a book about people that just have had terrible things happen to them, because that's a depressing book. I had to find people who had been through real life challenges, but had the wisdom to look back and say, "Okay, this wasn't helpful, this was really helpful. This is what we've learned. This is what we would tell others."

So that every chapter, even if somebody hasn't faced that challenge, there's a lot of takeaways. I think in Deborah and John's chapter, of course there are many takeaways where you may not have four kids as they do, but there are many principles about how to preserve your marriage and not just preserve it. That's not the right phrase. Help it grow ever closer to get what John calls the unmatchable connection. Even when you're in a very busy season, like having toddlers and a baby at the same time.

Chris Grace: Boy, and I think they epitomize too couples that are trying to withstand that life storm that you call it, of busyness, of trying to work, I don't know, 70, 80, 100 hours a week. And then also the other spouse being a licensed therapist. And I wonder, Gary, if there's almost everybody can relate to the idea of too busy of a schedule, life is just too hard. And that seems like now in this culture, in this day and age, in this economy, people are facing that on a regular basis.

Gary Thomas: Let me tell you the tale of two couples, if I could. One couple barely in their thirties, two small children came to me because they're just having a hard time staying connected. They feel like they're growing more and more distant. The wife is frustrated with the husband because he only, and I put that in air quotes, earns $180,000 a year, which seems to me like a very good salary for a 30 year old guy. But she earns almost twice that, not quite, but she has a profession that you have to pay a price for that. She works a lot of evenings, some weekends, and they're just saying because they have two small kids, they're often not in the house at the same time. Date night, they can't even possibly schedule it.

There might be nights when they're only in the bed at the same time maybe four hours a night, because one's coming to bed late, one's having to get up early. And I asked them, "Well, how much money do you need?" He said, "In our neighborhood, about $500,000." I said, "Do you need to live in that neighborhood?" 

"Well, yeah, it's where our friends are, it's what we're comfortable with, it's what we're familiar, it's what we've always wanted." Then I said, "Well, I don't mean to frustrate you, but I may not be able to help you. I don't know how you can keep a marriage intimate working that schedule." There are times in marriage where maybe for six months or a year you have to live in a difficult schedule like that because you're getting through a crisis. But if you're choosing this as a lifestyle, I honestly don't know how you can stay connected, how you can stay intimate, how you can stay friends, how you can stay knowing each other if you're running a schedule like that. And they didn't realize it, but what I wanted them to see is you're choosing a neighborhood or a marriage, but the way you're setting it up, I don't think you can have both. So that's the tale of the first couple. 

Tale the second couple is Deborah and John. The first child caught them a little bit by surprise. They had such a great few years of marriage. They were just so in love and committed and connected. And then Deborah faced some postpartum depression with the first one that kind of caught her by surprise, even being a counselor, she thought she should be able to get through it. John was going through residency, Deborah's counseling. And so I love the way that John describes it, he goes, "That first year, every picture of me is laying down on the couch, sleeping with the baby on top of me." I think a lot of married couples can relate to that.

Alisa Grace: We could all relate to that. I was just babysitting my five month old granddaughter before I came over here and that was us. She was napping and it's like, oh man, I'm laying down, closing my eyes too.

Gary Thomas: So when baby number two came along and then three and four, they realized, okay, what we did before didn't work. And they made some changes. They're essentialist as Deborah puts it, meaning they say no to a lot of things. John is insistent. None of our kids are going to play professional sports. They can do one event. And even with four kids, if they do more than one, we're never going to have time alone. They have their Sunday night check-ins, that's inviolate for them. Where, "How are you doing in the Lord? How are you doing emotionally? What's been your biggest temptation?" They might have a time of physical intimacy, they might be playing chess or watch a favorite show or something. But the kids have learned, once you're in bed, you are in bed. If somebody isn't bleeding out, we'll deal with it in the morning.

Chris Grace: That's right.

Gary Thomas: But even more, John told me ... now he's an eye surgeon, but he works three days a week and he works five minutes-

Chris Grace: From home, right [inaudible]-

Gary Thomas: From home, because basically he's decided ... we could earn more. He goes, "I'm willing to drive older cars. We're willing to live in a neighborhood right by where I work because I want what we have." And at the end, here's the thing that I wish people could have heard when he described it with passion in his voice, what he called an unmatchable connection. He said, "If guys could know what I enjoy with my wife, a love life beyond our dreams, but that connection, that fellowship, being companions, you would realize it's not worth anything else that you're going to get working 60, 70 hour weeks."

So I think I'm hesitant to say this because I know there are couples out there, in fact, there are single parents out there who are working themselves to the bone just to barely get by and I don't want them to feel guilty. This is not a hard word for those that literally are fighting off being kicked out of their house, not because they're not responsible for their money, they just are having a hard time earning enough. 

But for those who really do have some level of affluence, I haven't found it helped their marriage. In fact, sometimes it can make their marriages more difficult if they don't set those priorities going in and saying, when a child is born, as Les Parrott says, a new marriage is born. Even if it's child three, a new marriage is born, or child four. And your first call, I believe next to saying I want to be a faithful believer is we will be closer as a married couple 18 years from now than we are today. It's actually the best thing you can do for that baby that you're bringing into your home.

Chris Grace: That's such a good word Gary. And I think knowing a little bit of John and Deborah's story that you unfold in one of your chapters, I love a couple of things about that. One, they also said they'd lock their door when they go to bed and it's intimacy time. And like you said, if the kids aren't bleeding out, if they can't find bone. 

Alisa Grace: They haven't seen Jesus. 

Chris Grace: If they haven't seen Jesus.

Alisa Grace: Do not come downstairs. 

Chris Grace: Don't come down. And I think what also stood out to me too was sometimes it's the small things. Obviously he took a job and has a job close to home or they move their home close. But one thing that stood out was lunch every day. They make it a priority to have him come home for lunch, which to me adds up to what? Maybe five, six hours, which doesn't sound like a lot, but you and I know some of the research from Gottman that talks about the magic of five hours just in and of itself, a couple that can learn to find even just small increments of time throughout the day really can go a long way.

Gary Thomas: Well, and you see it with them as well. And that's the thing. John has said, "I'm not going to go out for five hours and play golf." And Deborah Lason says, "Well, I wouldn't let him." But I think if you could see what you're getting, so often when people are talking about marriage, they think, "Oh, I have to give up this," or, "I can't give up that," or, "I can't do my hobby." I say, okay, that's one thing to focus on. Or you can focus on having the kind of relationship that they have that is better. One of the best experiences in life is an intimate, connective, supportive, cherishing marriage. It really is.

Alisa Grace: It's a kind of marriage that other people wish they had.

Gary Thomas: Right. And the couples in this book who got it, they were intentional and in some ways vicious with other choices. They realized they couldn't do everything. They didn't let the neighborhood determine how their marriage was going to be. They let their marriage determine what neighborhood they were going to live in. That's really the difference between those two couples.

Chris Grace: I love that too because that we all make choices and about what we can do, and when you have one kid, great, maybe they choose to take music lessons and play T ball and maybe play basketball and maybe do something else. And then kid number two comes around, well that's multiplied times two and then three and then four. And they made a very conscious decision to say, like you said, they're never going to be professional athletes, but they can only do one thing at a time. 

Alisa, I remember when our kids were there, that the pool towards travel ball and the pool for as young parents to go and you just want the best for your kid. You don't know if they're going to be a rock star or a sports star. And I think at least, Alisa, we faced that. Gary, I know you all probably did as well. It was a decision that we made to say, look, we can only do so much or we're not going to have this family affair.

Alisa Grace: And I remember, I know what you're talking about, and I remember one semester in particular when the kids were in grade school and there was one semester that they were in multiple sports for the first time, whether it was like soccer and baseball and basketball and dance. And they were overlapping the two of them. And we were literally out of the house seven days a week that semester. And I remember by halfway through the semester we were just looking at each other going, "What are we doing? What are we doing? This is crazy."

And so we just made that decision at that point that we are never going to do that again. And you can choose one sport at a time that you would like to play, one activity after school, whatever that you would like to partake in. And that's all that we're going to do. But yeah, and I wonder too, maybe you guys could comment on this, I wonder how much of it when we have kids in multiple sports like that, doing the travel ball, doing the-

Chris Grace: Cheer, dance. 

Alisa Grace: Competition cheer, competition dance, all of that stuff, and it costs thousands of dollars even to participate. At what point is it, I guess at what point is it because we want the best for our children or is there a little bit of it if we're being honest with ourselves that as parents we get some kudos, we get some strokes or some pride out of our kids really excelling and being good at some things like that?

Chris Grace: Yeah, Gary, go ahead. You can have that one.

Gary Thomas: I'm not sure there's one answer. I do think some are just well intentioned and they think that's what their kids need to enjoy life. But I'm going to tell you, if a kid is an all star with three college scholarships, but their parents' marriage is cold, kind of quietly hostile, they would give that up. I think it's a poor choice of priorities. Whatever the motivation is, I do believe it's a poor choice of priorities that we want to spiritually nurture them with our own affection and love for each other. 

And the couples who made it, and here's where I think you guys were wise. When you recognize what's happening, the couples who made it when bad things would happen ... now this chapter was different and that a new baby is a miracle. It's not a bad thing, it's the world's highest blessing. But one couple that got MS, one couple had financial issues, there were affairs, things like that, is that they made the situation their enemy and not each other.

Because so often when you get so busy like that, you start to feel like my spouse doesn't care, my spouse isn't connected, my spouse isn't even asking questions. And so we make the spouse the enemy instead of realizing, you know what, she's probably as tired as I am. She's probably just thinking, "It's 9:00 PM. I've got to get up at 6:00 AM to get the things ready. I haven't even bed, I just need to collapse." It's not that they don't care about the marriage, they're in a situation that isn't very enjoyable. 

And so I think where you guys were really wise is you looked at the situation instead of saying, I've fallen out of love with you, or I feel distant from you, you're saying, you know what? This situation stinks. How about together we figure out a way to attack the situation so we don't start attacking each other because if you don't attack the situation, you very likely will start to attack each other.

Chris Grace: Yeah, Gary, that's a great point. And what you end up doing I think is leading into even some of the other issues that couples face is it appears to me, I'm a psychologist. I studied social psychology and group dynamics and couple dynamics. But more importantly, what seems to happen is that I have found over time is couples like that, that get too busy find they're still having deep, spiritual, emotional, physical needs that are not being met by that spouse that's absent. 

And so the next couple that you highlight and draw out are those couples that go so far away and work and spend so much time away from home. Pretty soon that becomes a refuge because going home is nothing but fighting. And that is a prime case for any of these couples for being vulnerable to something like an emotional or even a physical affair. I love how you brought that out with the couple. He's traveling six days, five days a week. They don't see each other during that time, but when they do see each other, they're tired and fighting and not very excited. And so all of a sudden one becomes much more vulnerable, at least in this situation. And Gary, that's a sad, difficult state for couples, isn't it?

Gary Thomas: It is. And it was really instructive for me to hear Terry's story. Terry is the wife. She's the one who ended up having the affair. She says the first root cause was not dealing with some root issues in her childhood. So she had some expectations of David, that's her husband, that no man could ever meet. But then when the marriage became just bitter and cold and angry and whatnot. But what really was instructive to me was how gradual her affair was. She didn't see this coworker and think lustfully, "I got to have him." She didn't fall in love with the coworker and think, "This is my soulmate." If you would've told her a year and a half before the affair, "You're going to have an affair with this man." She'd say, "Have you lost your mind?"

It was just living with those unmet needs, living with that frustration, never having a man pay her any attention except a negative kind. When one man seeks her out to talk to her, all of a sudden it's like, whoa, I miss this. And in fact, she misses it so much when he's not around, she goes and hopes to run into him and puts herself in his path and that set her up then to receive his flirtations. In a healthy situation a wife might say, "You can't talk to me like that. I'm a married woman." But she kind of liked hearing that, which set her up then. Because now it's a smaller step. If he says, "Well, let's go out for drinks."

Well, it's just drinks. Okay, we'll go out for drinks, still not planning to have an affair, but then they're at a bar and they're having a few drinks, which means she lets him kiss her. And then following that another visit, now it's just a smaller step, they end up meeting at a hotel. But it was this little step that set up another step, that set up another step. Little steps in the midst of loneliness and marital deprivation can take you a long ways from each other, and they led her into what she would've never thought she would do. And that is having an affair.

That's why I just urge spouses to be aware, to be on their guard because when you take little steps away from each other, it can take you farther than you ever imagined you would go. And that's the danger of letting your marriage not be intimate. In fact, now that Terry and David have reconciled and renewed and got strengthened and there's just an amazingly dramatic story about how God helped them go through that, but they talk about the danger of CrossFit. John Gottman has said that if you get your heartbeat up to about 95 beats per minute, it opens up emotional interaction.

It makes you more ... people think you have to drink to become vulnerable. That has all kinds of dangers. Get your heart beat up, go for a run together. But they noticed, David and Terry, CrossFit, how many affairs were starting at CrossFit. And after Terry told me this research and then what they were just experiencing anecdotally as we were talking, we just put it together. I said, "Well Terry, think about this. You're at CrossFit with a trainer. Your heartbeat is up above 95 beats per minute. The trainer might be kind of touching you lightly just of course to correct your posture. He's giving you an encouragement, 'You can do this. You got that. Way to go girl,' and whatnot. It is a ripe place for an affair to erupt if your marriage is in deprivation."

And so you just got to be wise where your marriage is because if we've got some listeners that are here because they're saying, "Man, we've grown apart, I don't know what's happened." Just be particularly careful until you start to reconnect what kind of situation you get yourself in. Be mindful of those little steps towards someone, or you may do great harm to your marriage. It will take a long time to recover from.

Chris Grace: And so Gary, let's talk about that with just your experience in this. We can always talk about and understand Jesus's comments to those who are faithful in the little things, the wise steward or the shrewd steward who said ... Jesus called him out. He said, man, "If you're faithful in this little, you're going to be faithful in much. But if you're faithful or dishonest in the little," he says in Luke 16:10, "You're going to be dishonest in much." And I think that's what Terry ran into and David in your story. 

But at the next level, I mean that idea, David's reaction to feeling once the affair was brought forward and she asked for forgiveness, his reaction was pretty normal I think for a lot of people that would be expected in that he just was not happy and it took him a long time. And you like describe, a lot of things. So Gary, there's couples that are struggling because they can no longer trust their spouse due to betrayal of whatever kind. Maybe it was an emotional affair, maybe it's a physical affair. What kind of insights do you give for them in that journey of reclaiming and understanding what it means to trust again and to forgive again and yet they're having a hard time forgetting.

Gary Thomas: My earlier books like Sacred Marriage and Lifelong Love and whatnot focused on spiritual intimacy. Being a Pastor, spiritual writer. That's kind of where I go. This one I worked with the books of Dr. Archibald Hart and Dr. Sharon May, it's a father daughter team, which is kind of fun. And their stress is on emotional connection, not just spiritual connection. So I'm going to just piggyback off of them to answer this. This isn't my wisdom, it's my poor attempt to try to give you a little bit of the treasure that they share.

But there are three things that if they're lacking in a marriage will create distance, disconnect and deprivation in the marriage. But those same three things, if you recognize you're in a place of poverty, you're in this marital desert, putting these three things back in are how you reconnect with each other. The first one you've already mentioned, it's trust. It's why betraying trust is so devastating to a marriage. 

I say in the book that betrayal is to a marriage what dynamite is to a door, it just blows it up. And so what do you do? You have to rebuild trust. And that doesn't mean just promising to be sexually faithful or emotionally faithful if it's an emotional affair. Trust is built often in the little events of life. If you say you were going to be home at six o'clock, you're home at six o'clock. If you say you were going to make this call for your spouse, you make the call. If you say you paid the bill, you actually paid the bill. There's a sense where you really need to rebuild this sense of I can count on this person. If you don't feel safe with your spouse, you can't be truly intimate with your spouse. If you don't feel like you can trust your spouse, you won't give your heart to your spouse.

And so that's where I would say the one who was unfaithful in any way, you must go out of your way to reestablish trust. Reestablishing trust isn't done by saying, why don't you've forgiven me? The acting like they're the problem. Of course they're having a hard time forgiving you. You've betrayed them. It's not asking them to get over it. Regaining trust is saying, "Here's my phone, here are my passwords. What do you need to know? I'm an open book." It's that kind of transparency that's required to rebuild it. 

The second thing is emotional availability. Even though you're married to a person that occasionally can be frustrating, that occasionally can hurt. It's making yourself emotionally available. I will be here for you. You're not too tired, you're not too distracted. You're not giving yourself moreover to a favorite sport team or frankly another affair or something like that. But you're emotionally available for your spouse. That can be harder for guys. I don't mean to get sexist, but in general sometimes we have to work a little harder at that.

And then the third thing they call sensitive responsiveness. For our spouse to want to be intimate and to feel connected with us, that sensitive response is so key, which would mean for the guys listening. When your spouse shares something that's bothering her, instead of trying to explain why it shouldn't bother her, that's not a sensitive response. You shouldn't let that bother you. They're crazy, or trying to just fix it. Then our spouse thinks, "Well, they don't want to walk through this with me. They want to fix it so they don't have to deal with it. So they're just trying to sweep it away." A sensitive response would be, of course you were angry. I totally understand why that person made you so angry. Yeah, that would make me fearful. I get why you're doing that. 

We show that we're there, that we get it, that we understand. To give a demonstration this, I'll do it with Terry and David, the couple that had an affair. After David found out, as you mentioned, it did not go well. A number of events happened in some very dramatic, but where there was a real breakthrough in their marriage, they were at a hotel. David didn't trust Terry to be alone when he was away and he's grilling her like a prosecuting attorney. He's trying to ... because she's lied to him, and so he's assuming he's got to uncover all the lies. "Well you said you guys went here, but on that day you were there. Or how could this be true or if that was true?" And finally Terry looked at him and she said, "David, you've asked me that question 100 times, but I'll answer it 100 times. I'm an open book to you. I'm so sorry this happened, and whatever I need to do to help you get over this, I'm willing to do."

She was emotionally available. Instead of attacking him, she showed empathy. Of course you feel that way. And then there's a very sensitive response. Yeah, you've asked it 100 times, I'll answer it 100 times. And both David and Terry said something broke that moment. In fact, both of them said that was probably the best time of sexual intimacy we've ever had because they had reached a new level of transparency and David could let go of the questions by building trust, emotional availability and sensitive responsiveness they were back onto a road. And when I eventually interviewed them probably two years ago, they were talking like Honeymooners. Yeah, Terry told me this has been the best year of our marriage. So that's a little bit of hope for those whose hearts have been broken. It doesn't have to bring your marriage to an end. It's possible in fact to have a more fulfilling marriage after that.

Chris Grace: What's always hard is seeing the end part of this, that is Terry and David are back and doing well and you've gone through their journey. What's hard, I think at the beginning oftentimes for couples is the almost complete inability to picture life being better. They don't have hope. And Gary, it takes so much effort for a person, let's say like David, if his wife was the one that had the affair or oftentimes it's the opposite, but still it takes, I mean not just effort, it takes courage and humility, but it takes brothers and sisters to come alongside us and say, "You've got to do this."

In other words, some of us don't even want to do that. And I think there are people out there going, "I don't even want to fix him and to get back. I don't want to do that. It's too hard. I don't trust them." And so it's really good and it's really hard. Good to see the end game that there's hope, and really hard to know that journey man. It is not something that for those that are just casually connected to the Lord, to do this, you have to be all in with him. What do you think?

Gary Thomas: Completely agree. There was another couple that has this story in the book where the husband had had the affair and I asked the wife because he had hurt her as deeply as a man can hurt a woman. He had been faithful more than once. In fact, once with a close friend, it was just, he would admit there was an addiction going on where he felt like he wasn't good enough for his wife. He knew eventually she would leave him. And so he was acting out. He said just to sort of force the issue, pulling off the bandaid and it was just horrendous and they recognized it. So I ask her because he did what she said, she'd never forgive. Her father had been unfaithful to her mother and she had told him, "Look, I'll do anything to get this marriage to work, but I'm not going to forgive an affair."

And so when she found herself a situation where she had to decide was she going to do it, I asked her why she stayed and there were a number of reasons, but one of them was not wanting to get back to what they had before. Not saying, I wish we could go back to before the affair, but how do we find something even better after the affair? Now it's grotesque to suggest you have an affair to get closer. It's like the Apostle Paul saying, "Should I sin so that Grace may abound? God forbid." I mean that's very strong language for Paul. But what they decided is that they said, what can we do now? 

And so because he had active repentance, and that's so key. Tears aren't necessarily repentance. Tears could be shame at being caught. Tears could be fear of losing a spouse that you love. There was demonstrated repentance where he is in a 12 step group going to the famous 90 meetings in 90 days, making the phone calls, reading the books, going to the podcast and in his case, having a clinical polygraph test with a trained diagnostician, I don't know what the word is, trained person to administer it, where she could ask him any questions she wanted every quarter. He knew the lying was over, he knew whatever I do she's going to find out about at the next polygraph test.

And she said to me, she goes, "Why would I want to start over? I know my husband. If I started over with someone else having been lied to so much, I'd be wondering what's the truth or not. I know what the truth is with this husband. If he died and I started over, I would put that man on a lie detector test on the second date before we would go any further."

Both of them had to recognize their weakness. David did as well. He realized, oh, Terry had an affair. And that's never an excuse. There were things as a husband that he says, "You know what? I need to grow in this area." With Keith and Roxanne, it was the same way. Keith was entirely to blame. There was nothing Roxanne could have done that would've made Keith not cheat. It's not that she wasn't active enough in the bedroom or wasn't a good enough wife. She was his ideal wife. He was going to cheat. But she still realized there are dynamics that if our marriage is going to improve, if I'm going to stay here because I believe in God's covenant love, if I'm going to stay here because I believe it's best for my kids. And I'm not saying it's not sometimes for kids, it might not be best if there's repentant behavior, certainly abuse or things like that.

But in their case, she believed it was best and she had issues to deal with as well. And they said the same thing that Terry and David did, that their marriage is at a level they've never experienced before and they don't know if it ever could have gotten there any other way. Again, I'm not saying have an affair so that you can work through and get closer. That's a grotesque way of twisting it. But by working through this challenges, others have worked through health challenges or financial challenges or child dying or a child rebelling. You would never wish any of those things into your life. But when you face them together, you actually can come out closer.

Chris Grace: Gary, as we pause this podcast and move to the next one with you, give us some final thoughts on these particular topics, because I think in our next talk with you, we want to make sure and talk about the last three that you mentioned. When something heartbreaking happens to a family member or death when there's an illness or when there's financial pressures, because listeners are going to want to know about those. But just as we end this segment and that idea, Gary, what's your hope for couples that are struggling in these areas? They're overwhelmed, they're busy, or one of them has fallen in a way that has broken trust in marriage. Tell us, what's your hope for these couples? Give a word of advice. And as a Pastor, your heart for them, what would you tell them if you had a chance to say, "Here's what you can look forward to."

Gary Thomas: We have a God, we have a savior, we have a redeemer. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. We have grace that we've received that we could give. Every chapter ends with a statement about God being our refuge, God being our strength. Some people have asked me, "Is this for every couple?" I said, "It's a very Christian book because I have no other answer for how you can forgive a spouse who's been unfaithful." 

I don't know how to keep a marriage together without God. I wouldn't want to keep a marriage together without God. Because for me, sharing the worship together and spiritual purpose together and a love for Jesus together is the best part of marriage. So that's what I would say. We are radically fallen and God is stupendously sufficient to meet us in our fallenness, to give us love where we've lost love, to give us strength when we feel weak, to give us motivation when we have none. 

And so that that's the message and that's what I like about your ministry as well. This isn't just, yeah, there are strategies and there are relational principles and there's wise counsel and whatnot, but ultimately I'm so grateful we get to live this life with such an amazing God who in his son and his spirit provides everything we need to face any challenge we have.

Chris Grace: Yeah. Amen.

Alisa Grace: Wow, beautiful. I think we ought to end on that note, what a hopeful note.

Chris Grace: It is.

Alisa Grace: Gary, we thank you so much for joining us today. Again, the name of the book is Making Your Marriage a Fortress and Strengthening Your Marriage to Withstand Life's Storms. So we're going to keep you on the line and we're actually going to go ahead and record a second one, but-

Gary Thomas: Can I give a quick teaser, Alisa?

Chris Grace: Please do.

Alisa Grace: Absolutely. 

Gary Thomas: This is what I want for those that are listening where I hope we can go. The premise is that every marriage will face a storm. If you haven't, it's coming. It's coming. And I want us to begin with the three things that I found every one of these couples found helpful. Regardless of what the storm is, what are the three things that they could do in advance that prepared them to face the storm and not have their marriage blown apart by it?

Alisa Grace: I love that, that's a cliff hanger. I would tune in for that next one if I were you, listeners. So thank you again, Gary, for joining us on The Art of Relationships. It's produced by the Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University. You can reach us at, and thank you for joining us today. It's been a pleasure. 

Chris Grace: Thank you, Gary.

Gary Thomas: Thank you.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at and make a donation today.